A Second Chance (2015, Susanne Bier)

How far would you go to do what you thought was right? Susanne Bier’s latest foray into moral ambiguity, A Second Chance, takes ordinary characters handling extraordinary circumstances in increasingly dubious ways.

A recent search of ex-con, Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), and his junkie girlfriend’s house stirs in Danish detective, Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), father of a newborn child, a particularly volatile reaction when he discovers the couple have a child, too, as it lays crying unattended in a cupboard covered in its own excrement.

A tragedy befalls Andreas and his wife, Anna (Maria Bonnevie), which sets in motion a sequence of events that has the beleaguered detective balancing precariously between his morals and what is right according to the law he is employed to enforce.

To say much else would be to give away a lot of the film’s punch. Needless to say, Bier tackles some extremely uncomfortable material. A Second Chance is a po-faced drama that takes its subject matter very seriously, but it is difficult to meet the film on its terms when the plot points that move the story – and the actions of Andreas – along are so absurd and fantastical that it threatens to undermine proceedings.

A Second Chance’s primary hook is in asking the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of Andreas. Empathising with a parent going through turmoil such as the kind Andreas faces is easy enough, sure, but some of his actions throughout the film are nonsensical. His involvement in the film’s major police investigation adds much to the sense of tension but not in regards to rounding Andreas out as a believable father. The moral ambiguity surrounding Andreas’s actions feel half-baked.

The saving grace is a cast of actors doing their best with a so-so script. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is especially excellent – delivering a performance of a level that will come of no surprise to anyone that has seen him in television series, Game of Thrones.

There is a compelling film about parenthood somewhere in A Second Chance but it is lost in an incredulous melodrama. (5)

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